Just about every day either me or my roomate comes up with a crazy idea. We’ve never actually done any of them, but maybe one day we will. The ideas range from the ever popular “geek house” to gladiatorial combat in international waters. One idea that I’ve had for awhile, at least a few years, is to write a book.
Now, I’m no great author, but I have decent writing skills. At least I like to think so. What do you think? You have a sample right here. But I do have a very good way of teaching people things. I’ve been a camp counselor 3 or 4 times and a geek my whole life. I’ve even been a geek camp counselor. I’ve taught many many people the ways of computers, and how to improve their computing experience. I’m apparently really good at it too, because people keep coming back to me for more help and answers. And unlike other geeks I don’t shoo them away. I actually have some strange power that somehow when I explain computer stuff to people they understand as completely as they can. The problem is that people who want me to tell them things listen and learn. Many people don’t want to listen when I tell them spyware is bad.
Anyway, for a long time I’ve hated the way computer education has worked. Dummy books are the absolute worst. The way they work is they teach a very specific application or program. And they only teach it at the highest level. Click here, then click here, next click over on that icon, now type stuff in. So people trying to learn about computers don’t actually learn anything. All they do is learn simple procedures for accomplishing basic tasks. If anything during their computer time deviates from that pre-learned sequence of tasks they completely fall apart. This is no good as no real learning is going on. This is why people always say things like “my computer hates me” or “it doesn’t work right”. The computers actually work just fine, they just don’t realize that they told it to do that.
To truly learn computers people need to learn about them from the ground up. I don’t mean that everyone needs a degree in computer engineering and computer science. That level of detail is unecessary. However, they should know the parts of a computer and what they do. The should understand how those parts of the computer relate to the software on an abstract level. They should understand what software is. Basic networking knowledge is also essential now with our internet days.
After a foundation of learning about how computers work then we can have another section. The part that talks about applications in general. Don’t teach outlook, teach e-mail. Don’t teach IE teach web browsing. Word/Word Processing, you get the idea. And when you teach about each seperate type of application you can talk about all the pitfalls of that type of application to make people into good netizens ( I like that word ). Teach them about spam and spam filtering. Teach them about xml file formats and proprietary binary ones. Show them examples of features in multiple applications good and bad. Try not to be biased towards one application or operating system over another. Just give the straight facts about how different popular programs do things, pro/con.
I don’t believe a book like this exists. Every computer book I’ve seen is either a dummy book for the average joe or a technical O’Reilly style book for guys like me. The in-between book does not exist. There is no way for people who are interested in progressing between the two to do so via a book.
In addition to attempting to get the book published and sold in stores, I would also publish it in a free and open format online. The same creative commons license as this site would be appropriate. I imagine I could get a working draft of the book done over the summer if I really tried. The problem is that I wouldn’t find time to work on it. Maybe after I get out of college? Now I know a lot of people are cynical and think that a book like this wont work. Or you think that nobody will care or will read it. Well, that may or may not be true. I would still like to hear what other people think about it. Especially if you are the type of person who isn’t technically inclined. Would you want to read a book like this?